Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

China defends links to Sudanese government


China responded to what has become a public relations disaster ahead of the Olympic Games yesterday amid mounting pressure over its role in Darfur after US filmmaker Steven Spielberg severed his links to the Games.

Beijing expressed regret yesterday over Spielberg's decision, saying it was unacceptable to link politics to the Olympics.

Authorities also defended China's involvement with Sudan.

"We feel regret about his remarks," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said.

"Some people are attempting to link the Darfur issue with Chinese government policies in Sudan, even with the organization of the Olympics," he said. "If they don't know the Chinese policy, I can understand. But if they have got some objectives, especially political objectives, we cannot accept that."

Meanwhile, a letter published yesterday in London's Independent newspaper from Olympic athletes and Nobel Prize winners urged Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to pressure Sudan over Darfur.

"As the primary economic, military and political partner of the government of Sudan, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a just peace in Darfur," the letter said. "Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people."

China's state-run media were largely silent yesterday about Spielberg's decision to pull out and the mounting pressure on Beijing over Darfur.

The media is required to follow the government line, with mandated blackouts reserved for the most sensitive of issues.

With less than six months to go before the Games, Darfur is one of just many blackspots that threaten to tarnish the Olympics.

Beijing's treatment of Tibet, its oppression of Taiwan internationally and the government's wide-ranging human rights abuses are among the other issues to have generated controversy.

Sudan's Olympic Committee expressed regret yesterday that Spielberg pulled out.

"We have always been against politics creeping into sport and we have never mixed the two," committee head and retired general Salah Mohammed Saleh said.

"Nothing harms the sporting spirit more than politics," he said.

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